Reducing phosphorus pollution

Fifteen ways to reduce phosphorus in our lakes, rivers, and stream, no matter where you live.

Residents

Woman sweeps up grass clippings in street.

Use no-phosphorus fertilizer on lawns and gardens

Be sure to check the bags when you buy them. Look for the package formula of nitrate-phosphorus-potassium, such as 22-0-15. The middle number, representing phosphorus, should be 0.

Keep grass clippings on the lawn

When mowing the grass, avoid blowing clippings into the street, where they wash into storm sewers that drain to lakes and rivers. Once in the water, the phosphorus in the clippings can grow algae. Blow the clippings back onto the lawn or bag them and use as fertilizer.

Keep leaves and other organic matter out of the street

Again, streets drain to storm sewers, which in turn drain to rivers and lakes, where the nutrients in leaves and other organic matter can grow algae.

Sweep it

Sweep up any grass clippings or fertilizer spills on driveways, sidewalks, and streets.

Leave a wide strip of deep-rooted plants along shoreland

Instead of planting and mowing turf grass along lakeshore or streambanks, plant native, deep-rooted wildflowers, ornamental grasses, shrubs, or trees. These plants absorb and filter runoff that contains nutrients and soil, and provide habitat for wildlife.

Farmers and rural landowners

Close up of soybean field

Contact your local soil and water conservation district or watershed district for help with any of these projects.

Boost soil health

Build soil health by planting cover crops, increasing organic matter, and reducing tillage. Practices that improve soil health also reduce field erosion, increase water infiltration, and make nutrients available to crops.

Buffer strips help

Leave a wide strip of deep-rooted plants along ditches, streams, and lakes to absorb and filter runoff. Many programs, including ditch authorities, pay rent for these filter strips.

Change the plan on marginal land

Plant perennial crops on marginal cropland, or convert it to a water retention area.

Use smarter drainage

Install controlled drainage systems instead of traditional pattern tiling.

Manage nutrients and manure

Follow nutrient management plans to ensure efficiencies and protect water resources. Follow manure management plans, including setbacks from water resources, when applying manure to fields.

Towns and cities

Lake shoreline with natural vegetation and wildflowers, with a "Rain Gardens" informational sign in the foreground.

Spread the word

Educate residents about keeping grass clippings and other organic matter out of storm sewers. Consider asking resident to "adopt a storm drain" to help protect water quality.

Pet waste and litter

Enforce laws on littering and pet waste disposal. Provide trash cans along popular pedestrian routes.

Leave a wide strip of deep-rooted plants along shoreland

Instead of planting and mowing turf grass along lakes and streams, plant wildflowers, ornamental grasses, shrubs, or trees. These plants absorb and filter runoff that contains nutrients and soil, as well as providing habitat for wildlife.

Construction work best practices

Educate contractors and excavators on best management practices on construction sites for sediment control, and enforce related laws.

Have city staff do it right

Require employees to follow best management practices for mowing, fertilizer application, and other maintenance work on city property.